I remember when young watching this image of two models standing stark naked with a live snake slithering between them which had created quite a stir in the media and the so-called culturati in the country at the time. The models held their gaze with a boldness and beauty, which is difficult to describe. Even at that age, as a child, it left an impression. Not of nudity, not of taboo… All I could see was beautiful forms intertwining to form an enigmatic poetic picture. They were, as the name of this year’s theme suggests, an expression of power and GRACE. This kind of transcendence in the expressions and body language of the protagonists where the inherent quality of the individuals was brought to life was only possible through the lens of the legendary Prabuddha Dasgupta.
This second edition of the Delhi Photo festival is indeed a fitting tribute to this great photographer who shifted the way we look at life and culture of the people around us. As one enters the foyer one can see life size images of the legend’s early works, each an exquisite frame of the inner life of the people it depicts. The experience is overwhelming and one feels a bit transfixed.
From here starts our journey with an exhibition of print edition works of photographers from around the world displayed in and around the galleries tastefully. In this exhibit about 35 bodies of work of photography have been showcased.
There is ample space to experience each work and the write ups help in understanding the context in which each body of works are created.
One finds numerous images by some very talented photographers from across the globe that look at different aspects of the world we live in and bring it out in a sometimes dramatic, sometimes documented and sometimes abstract way. From subjects like gay companionship to effects of violence to nature and relations between people, each image has brought to life the versatility of the world and its nuances to us. In all these there are a few which pushed the dialogue further.
Dario Matic’s “7days of silence” brought an eerie sadness in viewing the forgotten streets of his birthplace at Croatia. The works bring out the futility of violence. This is a commendable body of work as it is able to go deep into the intricacies of the cultural set up with perfection in composition and simplicity in each frame.
Another impressive exhibit is that by Jannatul Mawa from Bangladesh. This set of images kept me going back and forth looking at the expressions of the maids and their madams where each frame had a different story to tell. Not only did it manage bringing out class differences and social nuances of structure in society, it also brought to light the day to day dealings of the two classes and each individual in particular through their body language and expression even though all were seated in a similar fashion on a sofa owned by the madams.
While Dina Oganova’s images are inexhaustibly beautiful and full of action, Asmita Parelkar’s body of work brings out a sensitivity to the oxymoronic idea of animals free and looked after in the zoo. Both photographers have been able to encapsulate the inner lives of the characters of their narrative within the image with dexterity and poise.
In Miyuki Okuyama’s images one associates with a sense of for boding and fearful anxiety as if something mysteriously ill is about to happen. Each image has been composed to perfection and one is drawn into this child like world of emotion, forgotten and now brought back where one finds it difficult to come out of the work. Visual associations within each image act as cues to draw one further within. The result is a truly engaging experience that is surreal and mutates reality bringing to light a forgotten world.
Another exhibit of works worth special mention is that by Tamara Dean. In her work one finds pure lyricism with the balance of clarity on the thematic content of the work. It is a pleasure to go through each frame. The subject and its environment work in synchronic harmony and each frame feels like a story running…a work of art.
One other body of work that stood out was that by Sumit Dayal. “ Wish you were long” which has a very real and at the same time, sentimental perspective on what the essence of being a Kashmiri and being of that land is. It is a longing one feels within each frame, a reaching out by the photographer, who author like, claims a more beautiful angle of normalcy and beauty even within the violence that tends to engulf the land. The result is a series of images that create a dialogue between polarities, a discussion on possibilities and a whisper of what may be and can be retained with regard to what is. A very subtly woven labyrinth of opposite nuances which form the basis of a powerful statement in images.
In bringing a visual experience based on selection by merit of work with a global outlook the festival has done well leaving one with a rich taste of some very good photography in the contemporary context. To put it gracefully, the Delhi Photo Festival this year has done the work of the monsoon in the dry arid landscape of quality contemporary photography exhibitions of a global nature in India today.